Gaining its popularity mostly by creating a sense of a cool “underground” company that helps people find a place to stay, Airbnb has become the first choice of those who don’t have the resources to pay for traditional (or more expensive) accommodation.
Depending heavily on WOM (word-of-mouth) marketing and reputation-based ratings, the website has created a loyal community that is not used to seeing from it the regular advertising efforts usually employed by other organizations.
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Launching their official re-branding campaign on July 14th, they are introducing a discourse relaying on the notion of belonging, hence – their new logo. Now, we can’t really be sure if they intended to create this much controversy or not, but the fact is – they did. With a lot of different opinions on the matter, starting from it being pure genius, to other going as far as to call it “neoliberal bullshit”, Airbnb has managed to become the center of attention for now, literally grabbing the spotlight.
The biggest question right now is – is this all complete bullshit, or is it an extremely genius effort on their part to reassure their users they still have their best interest in mind?
Our opinion – BOTH.
By reminding everyone of the concepts of community and belonging, the company is making sure that the users will still feel like “home” when they are using the website. Because “ a home is where you belong”, and they are all ”about home”, aren’t they? NO – they are about what every other company in that sector is about – making a profit out of helping people. Which do they care about more? Let’s be realistic here – of course it’s the first one.
If we take a look at their investors, it’s not difficult to find out that they received a huge investment just now – in April 2014. We can’t help but wonder if it’s just a coincidence that they launched their first global ad campaign just a month later? Actually, scratch that – we don’t really see anyone wondering about that – it’s all pretty straightforward.
The pressure is obvious – Airbnb rely heavily on their investors. Maybe we just didn’t expect the same old story unfolding again this time – a company moving away from its reputation of the “rebel” and the “underground” player to a more mainstream image (To this day Apple seems to be the only major player able to do that for a long time and still keep their initial reputation).
However, the fact is that in today’s sharing economy, now is the time when the key players are trying to dominate the market – another reason for the rising pressures set upon Airbnb. They started as a platform for sharing – sharing your house, sharing your Internet, your kitchen, your thoughts, your advice – with people you don’t know. All very authentic, all very hospitable and collaborative. Their problem right now is every company’s problem – will they retain their authenticity? Will they keep having loyal users who believe in their cause or will the majority of them feel betrayed by the company supposedly selling itself out?
Let’s wait and see. One thing is sure though – the controversy will continue and we will be right here to share our feelings and offer you a shoulder (or a comment section under a blog post) to “cry” and discuss Airbnb on.
Food for thought: Will Airbnb become the next Facebook? Will people start complaining constantly about it but still use it all the time?